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Is It Time To Raise Minimum Wage in Maine?

I had heard a lot about the 10.10 proposal to raise the minimum wage in Maine.  I think the proposal is right.  No one working 70 hours a week should be living in poverty and unable to save a penny towards a better future or even a few small pleasures.

There has been a group of supporters of this idea, congressmen, business owners and the like, traveling on a bus tour of to raise awareness of this proposal found on the web at Raise to 10.10. And it isn’t just Maine this initiative stretches across the country.

One of the things notes in the literature is the price of inflation of gas and oil and basic necessities and how much they have gone up.  It is my personal opinion that issue is as important to address as minimum wage because if they raise minimum wage but don’t get inflation under control seems to me the problem will just come back.

Full press release:

Washington DC – Americans agree: No one who works should live in poverty. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening to workers around the country earning the current minimum wage.While the federal minimum wage has stayed the same since 2009, the price of food, gas, utilities, and basic necessities has not under inflation and made it nearly impossible to live anywhere in America on $7.25 an hour or $15,000 a year.  Maine’s current minimum wage of $7.50 is higher than the federal level but still far too low, amounting to just $15,600 per year for a full-time worker.  It’s long past time for Congress to give America a raise.  And to help drive the point home, Americans United for Change has hit the road with the 11-state “Give America a Raise” Bus Tour supporting President Obama’s plan to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

With the backdrop of 45’ long, 16 ton anti-poverty billboard on wheels and with invaluable support from the Maine People’s Alliance, the tour kicked off the in Maine today, making stops in Bangor and Portland, and featuring a broad spectrum of speakers including Congressman Mike Michaud (ME-2); Portland Mayor Mike Brennan; Laura Fortman, the U.S. Labor Department’s Principal Deputy Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, as well as local small business owners, faith leaders, and low-wage workers.  One by one, participants urged Senator Susan Collins to help hard-working Mainers climb out of poverty and one rung closer to the middle class by voting to boost minimum wage.  The tour will be in Nashua, NH tomorrow and will end outside the U.S. Capitol on April 3.

The Maine tour stops came on the heels of a new report is out from the Center for American Progress Action Fund finding that raising the minimum wage would increase wages for 121,000 workers in Maine by $153,746,000 if the minimum wage is raised to $10.10, and that this wage increase would generate $97,321,000 of economic activity in the state.

Congressman Mike Michaud (ME-2): “It’s time for action: There is no way that working folks can keep up at $7.25 an hour.  Last year, the Maine Legislature sent a bill to Governor LePage that would increase the minimum wage to $9 over three years. Instead of taking action to help hard-working Mainers make ends meet, Governor LePage vetoed the bill.  Mainers who work hard and play by the rules should be able to make ends meet, feed their kids, heat their homes and not live in poverty – period.  It’s common sense.  Raising the wage would cut food stamp expenditures by $4.6 billion per year. 63 percent of Americans believe that it’s time to raise the wage. They know that it saves money and decreases government spending on food and nutrition programs, home heating oil, school lunches, and child care. Raising the wage is good for working families, our state, and our country.”

Portland Mayor Mike Brennan: “I believe that people in Portland need a wage increase and we need to be able to make sure that people who work here can live here.”

Laura Fortman, U.S. Labor Department’s Principal Deputy Administrator, Wage and Hour Division: “Workers have seen a real significant decline in the purchasing power of the minimum wage for more than 45 years.  Real people have experienced this. We’re not just talking about teenagers. The average age of a minimum wage worker is 35. We’re talking about working adults – the people who drive our kids to school on the bus, serve us our food in restaurants, the people who clean our schools and our places of business, assist us in hospitals.”

Brad Woodhouse, President, Americans United for Change: “After the recession, the economy is starting to pick up. Businesses are doing better. The stock market is doing better, but wages for 30 years, overall for most workers, have been flat.  What stands today in the way of stronger economy built from the middle out are Tea Party Republicans in Congress who only seem to care about voting for minimum tax responsibility for huge corporations that outsource jobs. Raising the minimum wage would provide a needed boost not just for the millions of struggling low-wage American workers that can barely survive on $7.25, but for the U.S. economy as a whole.  It will create jobs because it puts more money in the pockets of workers who will quickly inject it back into the economy, workers that include child care providers, janitors, and nursing assistants who average 35 years in age.   Millions of people with more money to spend on goods and services means businesses will need to hire more workers to meet the demand.  Decades’ worth of research done after previous minimum wage increases shows nothing but net economic benefits as a result, which is why so many successful business leaders and over 600 economists including seven Nobel Laureates are calling on Congress to raise it again now

“Word around Washington is Senator Collins is working on a so-called alternative to the $10.10 an hour proposal – one that could very well shortchange Maine workers when it comes to a living wage,” added Woodhouse.   “The President’s plan won’t.  According to MIT, the living wage in Bangor is $18,076 a year and $20,863 in Portland to be able to afford housing, medical care, transportation and food. If Maine workers made $10.10 an hour, working full time they’d earn $21,008 a year. Why mess with a proposal that gets the job done?”

Sean Garceau, the manager of Miguel’s, a Bangor restaurant that recently announced they were going to pay all their workers at least $10.10: “We at Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant have always supported paying our regular rate, hourly employees a fair wage.  And after the President’s State of the Union address, we decided to take it a step further now rather than wait on Congress. We raised our base rate of pay for regular hourly employee’s to $10.10 an hour. We did this back on January 31st, and guess what, our doors are still open. We are an independently owned restaurant and feel it is up to small business like us not to wait and to act now. We feel strongly that this is a pay raise needed to survive in today’s market of ever- increasing prices for basic necessities. Our employees should be able to work and afford to pay for things like rent, food, bills and maybe even have a little left over to go shopping at a boutique or go out for dinner. They should not be making a wage that requires them to rely on state subsidy programs to survive.  We already hear staff talking about going out for dinner and having a date night. Or a surprise gift that was bought for their significant other.  We feel strongly that raising minimum wages is not only the fair thing to do but it’s also good for the growing the economy. It puts more money into the hands of people who need it most. Gives them more buying power and the ability to pay their own way in life and not rely on subsidy programs. There is no reason why larger companies cannot afford to do the same. Help push this movement forward, business owners, and act now.”

Rev. Becky Gunn, Unitarian Universalist minister from Bangor “Raising the minimum wage is a moral imperative. The current minimum wage is a wage that keeps people in poverty even though they work. It is morally wrong for companies to make a profit from an individual’s work when that work is paid so poorly that he or she cannot afford to provide their families with shelter, food and clothing. If we are to achieve a country where we each have the opportunity to thrive – where all are allowed the chance to improve their lives, we must pay those who work a living wage.  If one is scrabbling to survive, one has little time to improve their lives by educating themselves or by participating politically and religiously in their society. I believe that raising the minimum wage is a moral issue. Across all faiths we are urged to love our neighbor as ourselves – one way of doing that is raising the minimum wage to above the poverty level.”

Amelia Mitter-Burke, Penobscot Valley Community Organizer with Maine People’s Alliance: “This is exactly the sort of minimum wage increase that Governor LePage vetoed last year, but it is what we have heard is needed from workers and small business owners all across the state.”

Tabitha Whalen, customer service representative at Dunkin’ Donuts from Portland: “I have lived my whole life in Maine. I have been working at minimum wage jobs since I got my first job at Burger King when I was 19-years-old. I can tell you first-hand how hard it is to make ends meet while working minimum wage jobs.  Two years ago I was working 60-70 hours between two jobs at Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s.   For six months I lived at the shelter and worked practically around the clock. Many time I was going back to the shelter to try to sleep for an hour before shifts. It was so draining, but I knew I had to do it for my three-year-old son, Malachi, and I would lose my parental rights if I couldn’t get my own apartment. It took me six months to save up the money and to get a section 8 voucher so that I could get my own place to live. The first three weeks in my new apartment, I slept on the granite floor because I spent every cent I had to put the money down for rent and other basic necessitates. Right now, I am still living paycheck to paycheck, working at various Dunkin Donuts. I work so hard, but it’s just impossible to save any money to get ahead or plan for emergencies. My daughter’s birthday is coming up and I don’t know how I can afford to get her a present in time. I keep telling myself that it’s going to get better. That it will get easier. But I just can’t imagine how or when. I do know that an increase in the minimum wage will help me, and so many others like me, who are working so hard but still struggling to provide for their families. Lots of people think that the people who work minimum wage jobs are young people or college kids who just want some extra cash. That’s not true. My co-workers at Dunkin Donuts are supporting families and children. Some are working far into their retirement years because they don’t have a choice. They deserve better. I hope politicians do the right thing.”

Anne Rand, co-owner of Dale Rand Printing: “I am happy to be here to add my voice to a large and growing list of small business owners who strongly support raising the minimum wage. I think we are all familiar with the statistics – 46.5 million living in poverty – more than at any other time in our history – and despite our enormous wealth, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country in the industrial world. But I would like to address the impact an increase will have on my own little corner of the world – Portland, Maine. When working folks earn $100 more per week, they buy themselves a little breathing room. They begin to pay off old debts. They get those new tires so their car will pass inspection at least for this year. They treat the kids to fresh bagels from the little shop down the street. They get a tank of gas they can buy groceries or pick the wife up after work. They budget carefully so they can splurge on a lunch on Commercial St this summer, just like other folks do. They buy that winter jacket or sneaker for the kids. They go to Rite Aid and get a few candies for an Easter basket they otherwise would have skipped.  In short, they spend that money in our community, helping to bolster those little businesses and the local economy. And when my local economy is doing well, people come to my business and help keep the six families who rely on it in business. It’s kind of like an economic circle of economic life. An increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 helps to make my business my community and my neighbors economically and morally stronger.”

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